Throat Cancer

Description

Hoarseness is a symptom of many upper respiratory and throat conditions, but it is often the only symptom of early-stage throat cancer. Hoarseness occurs because many throat cancers begin as tumors on the vocal cords or around the larynx. If throat cancer is detected and treated during its early stages, it has a high cure rate. If it is ignored or undetected, the cancer can spread to other areas of the throat and to the head or upper respiratory tract, complicating treatment.

Throat cancer affects more men than women. Smokers are at greatest risk for developing throat cancer, but heavy drinkers are at high risk as well. Throat cancer rarely occurs in people under the age of 50.

Signs and Symptoms

In its early stages, throat cancer often produces no symptoms. When it reaches later stages, the most common symptoms are:

  • Hoarseness
  • Sore throat
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Chronic coughing
  • Blood in the phlegm

Conventional Medical Treatment

If you suspect that you have throat cancer, see your physician immediately. To diagnose the condition, your doctor may perform an indirect laryngoscopy (during which your throat is examined with a mirror) or a direct laryngoscopy (during which you are anesthetized and your throat is examined with a fiberoptic scope). A biopsy of the affected area may be necessary to confirm diagnosis.

If the cancer is limited to a small, operable area, individual tumors may be surgically removed. Radiation treatment generally follows such surgery. If the cancer is widespread or is in an inoperable region of the throat, chemotherapy or radiation may be administered. (See "Conventional Medical Treatment" in "Bladder Cancer" entry for more information on radiation and chemotherapy.) In severe cases, the vocal cords and larynx must be removed. To help regain speech after serious surgery, speech therapy or a surgically-inserted prosthesis may be necessary.

Complementary and Alternative Treatments

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture Acupuncture has many applications in the treatment of throat cancer. Acupuncture has also been used to alleviate. pain and improve the ability to swallow in patients With cancer of the esophagu Commonly targeted sites include Small Intestine 17, Large Intestine 4 and 11, and Lung 11 , alone with auricular points that relate to the Pharynxg esophagus, larynx, and tonsils.

Acupressure Points that may be pressed to alleviate throat pain include Lung 11 (at the corner of the thumbnail) and Gallbladder 20 at the top of the neck.

To help quiet a cancer-related cough, an acupressurist may focus on several body points, including Lung 1, 5, 7, and 9; Conception Vessell? and 22; Spleen 6; Kidney 6, and Stomach 36.

Difficulty swallowing-a common throat cancer symptom-can be helped by pressing Conception Vessel 17 and Governing Vessel 13.

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